Long Tale of Abandoned Bees

Discussion in 'Swarms, Cut outs, and Trap outs' started by Hobie, Apr 19, 2009.

  1. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    Yesterday I transferred some abandoned bees to a new home. I had noticed some abandoned hives near an equally abandoned house a while back. Last winter I saw a man working on the old place and stopped to chat. He said if there were any bees left I was welcome to them. Spring came and Lo! And behold, there were bees coming and going out of a rotten corner of one box. The boxes were all rotten, and the bottom boards collapsed, so I had to transfer them to a solid box before considering moving them.

    I went over yesterday, and let’s just say it was a learning experience! I took the top cover off, and underneath was apiece of particle board in could-have-been-better condition. It was stuck fast. So I pried and ran a hacksaw blade under the edge to loosen it up, and pulled the top off. This was my first mistake, as you will see later.

    What I uncovered was comb running diagonally through the box and no sign of frames. I wasn't totally surprised, since the other stack of boxes on the stand had no frames in them, either. However, upon further inspection, down in the comb I saw an upended glass jar. Argh! Feeders! I looked... there were at least 2, probably 4. So moving frames to a new box was out of the question, the challenge was now to move the entire box (of questionable structural integrity) to on top of the good box. I lifted the box, and the item below it came up stuck to it: a queen excluder. Well, that had to go, so I cut it free. Went to lift the box and.... Oh no! The combs were apparently all attached to the top only, so when I lifted the box, I got ONLY the box, and the comb (and jars) stayed put on the excluder.

    Lesson #1: Evaluate the components of the entire stack BEFORE you start tearing things apart!

    [​IMG]

    So now I've got myself a mess. Sat and scratched my head for a while. Finally decided to tip the box on its side, holding the loose top on with my hand. I pried away the queen excluder, and then unceremoniously tipped/dropped the box back upright on top of the new box of frames. Thank goodness the old box didn’t just burst apart at the seams from this abuse! This pretty much pissed off the bees, although they were still remarkably calm. Put new inner and outer covers on top of the old box.

    I just hope I haven't bungled the whole thing. The combs are unsupported now, dripping honey, and I have no idea where the queen was in all this… hope I did not crush her between combs. With luck, they will take refuge in the box below (10 frames of drawn comb) even though it is at 45 degrees to their preferred orientation. I left the old cover, with some honey comb still attached, next to the hive, so hopefully the poor displaced bees will find their way home.

    The other old boxes below the excluder had frames with old thin plastic (?) foundation and a big old mouse nest. I spread out the old frames and left the girls to sort out the mess I made for them. Hope I did okay. Opinions welcome! Is there anything I should have done differently?

    Any advice on how to separate the old and new boxes will be appreciated, since I'm sure they will attach the comb to the top of the frames.

    The property owner watched the whole thing, and was fascinated. I explained a bit about how the hive boxes worked, and he asked what bees were collecting this time of year since there are very few flowers, and how you get the honey out. He was quite impressed with the propolis work on the old queen excluder. Come to find out, when he was a kid, his Dad used to cut chunks out of bee trees and drain the honey in a pillowcase behind the stove.

    All in all, a great experience! Made a friend and hopefully helped some bees.
     
  2. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    I would start by making about 4 cut out frames. They can be found on Robo's site. Just scroll down to find them.

    http://robo.bushkillfarms.com

    Then, using either copious amounts of smoke, or bee-quick, I would begin removing old comb. Keeping the honey in a bucket and putting the brood comb in the cut out frames. I would start in the two corners where the comb is shortest, working from both sides toward the middle. I would do it with the box still sitting on the new hive. When empty, I would remove the old box and install the cut out frames near the outside of the new box. Weeks later, after they have filled the regular frames with brood, I would move the cut out frames to the outside until the brood emerges, than replace them with the original frames. Hard, messy work, and the bees won't be happy. Dress accordingly.
     

  3. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    In retrospect, I should have put this in the Swarms & Cut-outs forum...
     
  4. Charles

    Charles New Member

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    Oh wow, that is quite a mess...keep us updated.
     
  5. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Your wish is my command, madam.
    It has been moved.
     
  6. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    Update:

    Today it finally stopped raining/thunderstorming so I went over to remove the old box and comb. The bees were incredibly calm, and never even bothered me while I took out the corner combs and the feeder jars they were wrapped around. Got a little buzzy when I got into the brood, though, but still did not attack my gloves. I LIKE these bees!

    Anyway, I hope they survive. Did not see the queen, but that is typical for me. There were 3 frames of brood, and not a very good pattern. The remaining long diagonal combs were nectar and pollen. Corner combs were last fall's honey. I put the 3 frames of brood and two frames of nectar/pollen into the new box, and the rest is drawn comb.

    Took the honey comb with me because I did not want to attract raccoons/skunks/what have you. Will bring it back later when they are settled. Don't know if they will want it though, because the hawthorne and cherry trees are blooming and full of bees of all sorts.

    Still have to go back and pick up the 4 feeder jars I just pitched on the ground.

    By the way... used the "slow steady breeze" technique on the smoker and had the best smoke I've ever had... if you know what I mean! It probably didn't hurt that the neighbor upwind was burning brush, so it was like working in a giant smoker, anyway.
     
  7. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Glad it went well, and thanks for the update. Keep them coming.
     
  8. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    Went back to look at the hive from the outside, and the bees are coming and going busily. It has been about a week since I tore their home asunder. Any advice on how long I should wait before I look inside?
     
  9. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    You should wait at least until yesterday. :D
     
  10. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    That's better than "at least until tomorrow"!!! :D
     
  11. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    Checked on bees today. They fill about 6 of 10 frames, 5 of which are the comb cut out from their old home, and seem happy. They were bringing in pollen. I did not pull any frames to look further. I temporarily put a box of old comb with some leftover honey on top from one of my dead hives... give them something to do during tomorrow's rain and thunder.
     
  12. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Hip, Hip, Hooray...Three cheers for a job well done. I'm betting I knew you could do it even better that you did. :p :D
     
  13. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    Dang it! I went to take the box of comb with some honey (that the bees were SUPPOSED to clean out for me) off the hive, and they had started filling it with nectar! This after only 5 days. There are still empty combs in the "downstairs" box.

    Come to think of it, every time I have tried to put a box on a hive for bees to clean, they have moved in instead. I am skeptical of this method. It does not seem to work for me. I felt bad taking the nectar they worked so hard to gather.
     
  14. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    So why did you take it? They will fill both boxes if you leave them on there.

    PS. If I want a box cleaned, I set it out 50 feet from the hives.
     
  15. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    I took it because I still have to move the hive back to my house, and I can't fit a 2-deep stack in my car.

    Also, they are ignoring the other half of the box they are in. Not sure if that is a good reason or not.

    I did just want them to clean it, but I thought I heard somewhere that I should put the box on top. Well, I'm smarter now.
     
  16. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    The abandonded bees were uneventfully moved to my yard last week. I set out a 6-frame nuc at the old location to collect lost souls, and just picked that up this morning. (Quite a few stragglers, and boy were they testy!) Placed nuc on top of the hive with their queen in it, and shoved some grass in the entrance. Hopefully they will figure this out and settle in to their new home.
     
  17. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    Okay, what the HECK is going on here???

    To reiterate: I moved the hive a week ago Thursday. I set out a nuc at the old site to catch the stragglers. I picked up the nuc on Tuesday and brought it back. I set it on top of the moved hive, figuring when the bees exited, they would return to the main hive and join their sisters and their queen.

    It's Wednesday now. Bees were flying and by afternoon I saw no one exiting the nuc so I figured this was a good time to remove it. I wanted to add a deep to the main hive as well, so I thought to do both at once.

    When I opened the nuc, there were still bees on 1 or two frames. Kind of a lot of them. (Should this have raised a red flag to me?) Well, it didn't, so I put those frames in the 2nd deep and placed it on top of the first deep.

    Later I looked again, and it looked like they were at war! Dead bees strewn about out front, bees tussling with each other. What the heck happened here? Shouldn't they accept their own? Did I create a bad situation by putting the frames with bees in them on top, instead of letting them come through the entrance? I didn't figure they would forget each other after only 5 days.

    Were they being robbed by another colony? Who could tell? I did open the entrance because it seemed to me there was a traffic jam before.

    Did a swarm move into the nuc over the weekend? Does not seem likely to me. If this is the case, I'm in trouble, because the original bees were wonderfully gentle and the bees in the nuc were nasty. I thought it was just because they were queenless.

    So I pulled them apart again and stuck a piece of newspaper between the boxes. Not sure if that will help anything, since they are all mingled and fighting already.

    Any idea what is going on here? What did I do wrong? What should I have done?
     
  18. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    72 hours, and they no longer belong to the colony. They were complete strangers.
    You did the best thing you could with the newspaper.
     
  19. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    Thanks, iddee. I never cease to amaze myself at the things I do not know.

    I worried all night that I had 2 queens in there. I just hope they do not deplete themselves. Next time I will not let the Memorial Day picnic take precedence over bee responsibilities. :oops:
     
  20. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    Last post: Bees seem to have survived my ineptitude. The second deep I put on the end of May was full yesterday, about half honey and half brood. I added a honey super. Clover and raspberries are full of bees (of all kinds). It's good to see.